Who’s Responsibility is it really?

My name is Destiny Kirumira and my stretch experience has been one of the most rewarding experiences I have ever had. I’ve truly enjoyed being able to choose who I meet with and for what purpose and creating my own “destiny” ( you have to make a pun out of your own name when given the opportunity). I am working on a project centered around Accessibility in Architecture. Which in many ways means I am interested in making universal design more “universal”.

Universal design is:

  • the design and composition of an environment so that it may be accessed, understood and used to the greatest possible extent
  • In the most independent and natural manner possible
  • In the widest possible range of situations
  • Without the need for adaptation, modification, assistive devices or specialized solutions, by any persons of any age or size or having any particular physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual ability or disability.
  • Without the need for adaptation, modification, assistive devices or specialized solutions, by any persons of any age or size or having any particular physical, sensory, mental health or intellectual ability or disability.

One thing I have noticed with universal design is that it is an idealistic approach to an intricate and complex issue. One can take multiple different stances on what the true solution is to a lack of accessibility; specifically in Canada. Some think that a lack of sympathy or lived experience is what is causing a relaxation with so many of the accessibility codes. While that may be true, a lack of lived experience is not an excuse and as cohabitors of this fine world, we will never have common life experience with every person on this planet. Therefore waiting for every person in Canada to have a disability or have a person in their family that has a disability is both unrealistic and unnecessary. Another stance on the issue is the impact of economics on advocacy. The state of the economy largely impacts how likely people will respond to injustice. Both in a place of scarce resources and in an affluent economic period individuals will respond differently. There are simply bigger fish to fry and more important issues to deal with at this time, or so it seems. While legislation can have a more substantial impact on this issue, without the right bodies present in order to enforce these changes, legislation is as good as empty words.

Screen Shot 2017-07-23 at 11.21.17 AM.pngMacEwan University Centre for Arts and Culture

Working on this project has given me the opportunity to work on lots of different projects and one of them was the new MacEwn building. As you can see it FILLED with lots of stairs and yet it is one of the more accessible buildings.

When one is out in the field conversation and discussion is often centred around things that are necessary not things that are “best practice” and better for everyone. I believe this comes from a lack of personal experience as well as a lack of knowledge. Similarly, there are lots of projects where accessibility is simply an afterthought instead of a part of the primary budget that has been written in form the beginning.

Looking at all the issues that are present in accessibility both in Edmonton and around the world, I recognize that either the government must change its thinking or people must change its thinking. This type of change in thinking could either come from exposure or action. Either the government makes leaps into accessibility by making it its priority or they actually create the bodies necessary in order to enforce the new code. Since I currently have no governmental influence, I think the other side of the team could be rallied. There are few architects that prioritize accessibility in the city but I believe that the power is the way that accessibility is being presented. It is often presented to architects as a human rights issue; a moral issue. And yet architects are neither lawyers nor are they judges. Universal design needs to be an aesthetically chosen design and not something that is going to make the human rights activist tip their hats at the architects. Architects need to believe that an accessible building can be the most beautiful and that if not for any other reason we should all aspire to build buildings such as these.

In a couple of weeks I will be flying to England to work with the Centre for Accessible Environments. This experience has shown me how little our own feelings and experiences truly matter in the grand scheme of things. What matters is what we do with what we are given and the opportunities we have.The purpose we have in whatever job or career we take on, is to serve one another, regardless of the cost. For that reason alone have I written this post. Hopefully you have learned a little about accessibility and how much more there is left to do and how much better we have to be.

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